Editor's note: This post originally appeared on 710 Studios' Leaps Inbounds Blog, and is republished here with permission.
My wife will attest that I'm the guy in this video.
I've known for many years that listening is something I need to work on. Being aware of the problem helps, but it's a difficult discipline when strong emotions are involved.
But what if instead of a conversation between spouses, this was a sales conversation? Let's pretend the woman in the video is a prospect, and the man is a salesperson.
After the prospect expresses a problem, most salespeople will stop listening and start formulating a solution. Then, as soon as they see an opening in the conversation, they'll offer their proposed fix (without being asked for it). What ends up happening is the prospect becomes defensive because no one likes having their problems pointed out to them -- even if they are painfully aware of the issues.
So how do you get your prospects to ask for your solution instead of you shoving it down their throat? Stop focusing on fixing the problem and ask questions!
When a prospect says the equivalent of "There's all this pressure, and I don't know if it's ever going to stop," don't point out the nail. Try a more empathetic approach.
Express compassion by saying, "Wow. That must be frustrating. You know, a lot of people I speak with are dealing with a similar issue."
Then follow up with empathetic questions. Here are a few examples:
- How long has this been going on?
- Has anything changed between then and now?
- What do you think is causing this?
- Have you sought help for this problem?
- Have you talked with anyone else about this?
- Did they offer a solution?
Asking enough questions should eventually nudge your prospect to ask something along the lines of, "So what would you do?" And that is the only acceptable time for you to start your sales pitch with "Have you thought about ... ?" or "Have you considered ... ?" Before this point in the conversation, you are just another money-hungry salesperson instead of a trusted advisor.